One minute of exercise

If anyone could have looked into our kitchen just now, they would have seen both Kim and I running on the spot, flat out, arms and legs working like dirling whirvishes.

And not once, or even twice, but three times, for 20 seconds each time, with a couple of minutes for recovery in between!

We must have looked really silly!

This is further to the Horizon programme last night (previous post), which showed that people can gain a demonstrably positive health effect from doing just one minute of exercise in this way, three times a week.

We don’t have a cycle machine, and our running machine doesn’t change speed that quickly, so we are going to be testing the technique over the coming weeks by running on the spot instead.  I can report that it certainly gets the heart racing!

Breaking news!

If you didn’t see Horizon tonight and are interested in the health benefits of exercise, it makes essential watching!

The bottom line is that three bursts of max activity, duration 20 seconds each and interspersed with a recovery period, three times a week, can have a dramatic effect on both insulin retention and VO2 max levels… even within the first month!

Worth a watch… and a try too!

Skipping training

After the Saturday gardening, the Sunday run and the Monday work challenges, the idea of skipping training was appealing, but fortunately remained a pipe-dream.

Even as we drove to Haywards Heath, my right ankle and left calf were complaining about their respective tasks in the driver’s footwell.  The warm-up jog was almost enough to finish me off entirely.

But once my body had got over it’s initial recalcitrance, we (being the collection of my body and various minds) had a fun session.  After hurting my back the other week I opted for lower weights, but still pushed hard in other respects… apart from mirth, since Tony & Lee were out of speakable range and I was partnered with Graham, Denise’s (the instructor’s) other half.

The flow of ‘in-dolphins’ was palpable by the time we got home… all weekend and Monday pains & stresses forgotten!  I’m even half inclined to consider taking a further class during the week!

It might even mean that I learn how to skip properly!

Legs out and a lot of fun guys

Okay, so I knew it was a mistake putting old mushrooms in the compost heap last year… I even remember thinking so at the time.  What came as a surprise however, was the return on my error.

The bag was heavy enough that it felt like it contained potatoes… had my brother Nigel been around to advise on their edibility, I’m sure we would have had mushrooms for tea, and probably for about a week!

There had been a rat or mouse in the compost heap, evidenced by a very curious cat hanging around last week, so I decided to empty it yesterday.  Aside from the aforementioned mushies, my willing assistant Kim spent most of the afternoon sieving out around 200 litres of light compost from the heap, while the rest was returned to break down a little more.

While Kim worked her way resolutely through this task, I hollow tined the lawns front and back of the house (an equally thankless job), cut the edges and then scarified… thankfully using the machine!

It was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful spring day!

We awoke this morning to a second glorious day and after reading for a while, I got out to do my normal Sunday jaunt… somewhat surprised that I could walk after our garden exertions yesterday, let alone run.

With my sights set firmly on the Beacon and my legs out for all to see, I had a really enjoyable run out past Oldlands Mill and down through Ditchling.  There has been much in the news about low ground water levels and this was apparent from the comparatively small amount of mud.

One walker warned me that it was ‘a bit mucky up ahead’ but he and I clearly have different concepts of mucky… mine being that my runners are completely caked and I am slithering around like a speed-skater on ice, with mud splattering half way up my back.  There were a couple of muddy-ish pseudo-puddles but it was pretty much dry really

In contrast to last week, I had more than enough energy and ran up the Beacon, reaching the top in about 52 minutes.. the same sort of time it took me to run there with a pack on last summer.

I stretched out my legs a bit coming back down the tricky Beacon path (which again speaks volumes about how dry it was) and then down the next section to Ditchling.  This is often where I start to feel weary, but not today.  I ran up Lodge Hill with ease and back across to Oldlands Mill.

From here it was a relatively easy run back along the road to Burgess Hill and home.

10 miles in 1.41 meant that I had run a rare negative split and averaged 5.94mph, at least a little faster than my ‘pack’ runs last summer.  My prize was to allow myself to ignore the other chores I had planned for this afternoon… with a little help from the sofa!

Now, I wonder what’s for tea?

Five months between blinks

BIG man Daren is ever-present in our thoughts and our conversations so, although I’ve not run with him since September (can that be so?), it seemed like we’d only seen each other yesterday.

We met at Jack & Jill windmills (we call it ‘Upstairs’, for obvious reasons… huh?) which this morning was as windswept as a windswept thing, with a powerful South-South-Westerly blowing straight down the car park!  So much so that I actually changed into my muddy runners IN my car, which is pretty-much unheard of!

We followed our normal 10km circuit, which took in Pycombe, Wolstonbury Hill, the ‘Downstairs’ car park at Clayton Rec, and the Tank Tracks, which we goaded ourselves to the top of without stopping.    At the top we had our cobwebs blasted away by the wind, before running back down to Jack & Jill.

I note that our 1.14 time for the 6.2 miles was slightly slower than September, but averaging 5mph with a couple of serious hills to contend with (not to mention 5-months of conversation to catch up on) is not at all bad going.

As ever, a thoroughly enjoyable run!

Lacking daisicals

One of the keys to developing strong organisational strategies is deciding what you will not do.  This was a little like the challenge I faced this morning, with too many options and only one pair of legs.  Except that I didn’t really feel like doing any of them.

It was a sunny day and that’s great for running from my folks’ place, but I didn’t feel like driving anywhere.  The Beacon is also a great place to run to when the sun is shining, but after a week of feeling listless, I didn’t have the energy.  It would have been very easy to run on the machine, but the sun was streaming into the house, which would have made for a hot run and also made me feel guilty at not being outside in the fresh air.

So the choice came down to either a road run, or an off-road run, the former winning, but in a half-hearted, lackadaisical way.  I set off into the sunny day wearing three layers under my jacket, two hats and a pair of gloves… which is a lot of gear and reflects the iciness of the temperature out of the sun.

Within a mile I was struggling, physically and mentally… my energy was absent and my sub-conscious was exerting strong pressure to turn around and go back.  I managed to stagger on, having the same internal dialogue several times before I had even reached three miles.

Ironically, maybe the chief reason for continuing was to deny my sub-conscious the upper hand… I’ve been writing about the subconscious in my slowly growing manuscript this week and have invoked irritating old habits in the process, so I didn’t want to give it any more latitude than I had to.

Runners are often tired, but that tiredness takes many different forms… this wasn’t heavy legs, or inability to breathe, but rather more of a general reluctance, but I soldiered on.

It wasn’t even that my mind was elsewhere, working on an interesting challenge… instead it was clattering, like having engaged a false-neutral in an old gearbox.  Not in any particular gear, but making a great deal of noise about it.  It’s useful for my work to allow these brain patterns to play out sometimes, besides which I lacked the motivation to do anything else.

I reached the five-mile mark in 48 minutes and ran back even more slowly.  I had taken my jacket off on the outbound journey, the sun in my face and the wind behind, but now the temperature dropped palpably as I ran back into the wind so the jacket went straight back on!

The rest of the run back was… well, I think that you probably get the picture, so I’ll save you the effort of reading about the effort and instead cut to the chase… 10 miles in 98 minutes, 6.1 mph.

Of course, there is always good value in celebrating the successful execution of a strategy that you did choose… which in this case was really about running and writing, rather than vegetating!  Well done Foster!

Now, where’s that sofa?

PS. Congratulations to Clive in the Brighton Half Marathon… 123 minutes is very respectable for an old bloke like you!

Oh to be the youngest in the school year!

Running, skipping and jumping

More running, skipping and jumping at Denise’s Monday Circuit session last night, although I’ve managed to tweak my back or neck in the process.

Tony & Lee were absent so there was less mirth than normal, so instead Daryl kept pushing me into using heavier and heavier weights… it always makes me smile when you go to pick up a weight and it stays resolutely glued to the ground.  More work required then!

AND, Breaking News!  When I woke up this morning at 6am, there was light in the sky for the first time this year… it may not have been very much, but it’s still a red letter day to my mind… Spring is coming!  YAHOO!

Chubby rides again!

Slightly unfair, I feel, the comment from Cliff on last Monday’s post, but the least I can do is to roll with it when I’ve blatantly blanked his excellent advice for such a long time.

This week I had a moment to celebrate.  In the past I have, on possibly two occasions, half-heartedly set out to write something longer than a post… and even longer than a letter to the Right Honourable Nicholas Soames MP containing yet more of my ideas that he really doesn’t want.  On each occasion my effort has fizzled out and quite rightly so.

However, at 3pm on 10th February, I set fingers to keyboard to write the inaugural words of my first proper book, on a subject that I have been teaching and writing about for a couple of years.  I know how long the book will be (thanks to Aidan Berry, Dean of Brighton Business School), have created the structure of sections and chapters, and in a little over 11 hours writing, over the last three days, have already clocked up 3,419 words.

I have also already had half a dozen helpful tips from my fellow alumni at London Business School, having replied to a fortuitously-timed post from someone else in the community who also just started writing a book.

There’s a long, long way to go, and writing it is only a small part of the challenge, but it feels great to have finally reached clarity about this project… I’ve effectively been preparing myself from it since 2007!

So my run this morning had to be shoehorned into a busy day, which is why (here comes the crux of the excuse that you were waiting for) I chose to run on the machine again rather than facing the seemingly sub-zero temperatures outside!

Based on my experience last Sunday, I didn’t bother to even put a tee-shirt on today, but I equally didn’t open the door either.  It’s FAR too cold outside!  I set the fan to blow air at me, filled a bottle with water and set off in the general direction of the cheese plant.

My approach mirrored that of last week, starting at 6mph and increasing by 0.5mph every quarter mile until I reached a mile.  Then I reduced by 1mph and repeated, eventually reaching a terminal speed of 9.5mph as I ran towards the 5 mile mark.


The Monday circuits have definitely improved my footing and although the last half mile was undoubtedly hard work, I was quick to feel a sense of recovery afterwards… albeit through a thick layer of sweat that even a shower couldn’t abate!

So 5 miles in 39.28, an average of 7.6mph.  And if nothing else, all this exercise is at least increasing the speed of my writing!

InDolphin Rush

Monday saw Kim and I brave a chilly night to attend Denise’s circuit class at the Dolphin Centre again.

Last week didn’t seem to have a lasting after-effect in my muscles (yes yes, I can’t say what I mean without saying the word stiffness, which I’m sure will elicit a good snigger), so I upped the ante this week by trying a little harder, lifting heavier weights etc.  I’ve certainly been feeling it this week!

Daryl, Tony and Lee helped offset some of the pain of the session by joining in my laughter… they’re great guys to work out with!

I’m reminded after each session we’ve attended that Cliff has been trying to persuade me to get back to all-round exercise for what seems like years now… and I now even remember why I stopped in the first place.  Following my skiing accident, where I broke a collar bone, I was having trouble with the other shoulder and the physio suggested I let the muscle reduce to try to resolve it.

It’s definitely time to move on from that and get fit again and I’m also following the Cliff & Nessie diet at the moment… eating a more hearty lunch every day and, well, generally just eating more!  The endorphin rush after each circuit session is palpable and I feel SO much better generally!  If a little stiff this week!

Observations of a cheese plant

I always love the way that a covering of snow on the ground outside reflects the day onto the ceilings inside the house and enhances the quality of the light. I would be a very happy guineapig for a dimmable ceiling full of LED lights, but in the meantime I enjoy our occasional snowy days all the more for the change in light.

I’m not averse to running in the snow, but only if it’s off-road. There is far too little traction on snowy pavements and the risk of injury outweighs any other considerations… including any adverse comments from my more… er, manly friends.

So instead I put on my shorts and climbed aboard the running machine. I’m sure that visitors think it’s an odd piece of furniture to have in the middle of an otherwise Zen-ish environment like ours, but I think more houses should have one… in fact, one of my neighbours clearly agrees and has recently bought one, albeit a bit flashier than our rather purposeful machine.

The downside of its location is that it faces a wall with only the leaves of a cheese plant to break the view. Two winters ago when I was training for the Brighton marathon and the world outside was deep with snow, I clocked up a number of long runs including one at 20 miles. It seems odd in retrospect that the subsequent marathon would break my mind in under two hours, when my mental muscle was strong enough to keep running whilst staring at the leaves of a cheese plant for three hours!

Today my aims were much more modest… a mere five miles. The machine shows progress around a quarter-mile track of LED lights and I decided to change the speed at each completed circuit. Starting at 6mph I increased through 6.5 and 7 to 7.5mph, before dropping back to 6.5 at the start of the next mile and repeating the process again.

This meant that at the end of mile four I was running at 9mph. In the final mile I reduced to 8.5, then to 8 and 7.5, but realising that I had the opportunity to run a sub 40-minute time, then increased the speed to 10mph to sprint to the end in 39.47, averaging just over 7.5mph overall.

Early on, Kim had noticed my get-on-and-run lack of preparation and had opened the door to the snowy garden, turned on the fan and had brought me a bottle of water… just as well since I had shed my shirt within a mile and by the end was dripping as if I was in a sauna.